We had a wonderful evening concert at Folk at the Barlow on the third Friday of September featuring JIB (Jim Mageean, Ingrid & Barrie Temple) supported by Tony Gibbons and Kate Bradbury. Doors opened at 7:30 and the Barlow Hall was soon buzzing with the chatter of long-lost friends meeting up again after a long time. There were an incredible number of high-rated performers in the audience, most of whom knew Jim and the rest. A real folk-family atmosphere.

Tony Gibbons and Kate Bradbury.

The evening was kicked off by Tony Gibbons and Kate Bradbury, a class act who are always welcome at the Barlow. These two have been performing together for many years as their rapport shows. Their act combines humour, melancholy, lovely accompaniments, singable choruses and songs-with-a-story. Tony and Kate are warm, relaxed and comfortable on stage, Tony’s ready wit and great bouzouki playing complementing Kate’s soulful voice and expressive fiddle accompaniments. If you’ve never seen them, they are definitely worth seeking out.

Kate is a talented songwriter. All her songs are well-crafted, have a message, and are sung exquisitely. I particularly enjoyed “If This be a Man” an unaccompanied song about what humanity does to itself and to the planet, and “Mary Angela”, an incredibly moving song which she wrote about “unmarried mothers”, victims of the times they lived in, forced to give up their children for adoption. You could have heard a pin drop in the hall. Mary Angela’s story has a happy ending that makes you cry.

“The Fox and the Hare” is a jolly little song from Tony dedicated to Kate, about a man unlucky in love who finally finds his soul-mate. His “Galway Bay”, about his family background and Irish roots had wonderful fiddle and bouzouki accompaniments.

Their whole set was thoughtfully and carefully constructed to ring the changes between different lead voices and accompaniment styles, moods of material, a cappella, and a tune set. They finished their spot with “Stepping Stones” a lovely two-part harmony.

JIB (Jim, Ingrid and Barrie)

Singing unaccompanied on the Barlow stage is something usually reserved for the Wilsons, but Jim, Ingrid and Barrie have the strength of vocals to carry it off seemingly effortlessly. They began with “Knocking ‘em Down, the Old Pubs”, in three-part harmony with Barry’s concertina accompaniment, a well-known song with a cracking chorus.

Three lusty voices that blend together well, their arrangements are pleasingly unusual, largely due to where Ingrid positions her harmonies. She has a great and enviable natural talent for this and a magnificent voice to carry it through, together with much experience of course!

Many songs are written and arranged by Barrie, who has a penchant for writing true-to-life songs from a slightly different angle. “Shipyard Girls” is one of these, a song about the women who worked in the shipyards in the Second World War. The vocal lead is Ingrid, who is soon joined by the others in harmonies that vary from verse to verse.

Three songs were about Jim’s home town of Cullercoats, a fishing village just north of the Tyne. “Hold the Lantern High” tells of boats that used to sail out of the now closed fishing port at Cullercoats Bay. It expresses the doubts and fears as to whether a sailor will return safely from sea. The lantern represents the hope that he will. A truly beautiful song with another great chorus and another chance for Ingrid to demonstrate her in- spired harmonies. “Cullercoats Bay” rang the changes with lead vocals from Barrie and his concertina accompaniment. The third song, in the second half, “Cullercoats Lifeboat”, has a very singable chorus and has enabled JIB to raise £3000 for the RNLI while at Whitby.

Jim’s family were miners and he talked vividly of the danger, sweat and dirt that his forebears endured in order to put food on the table. Two memorable songs were “It’s all in the Blood” and “Billy was a Miner”, one where a miner was killed in the cage by an explosion, the other about generation after generation who had no choice but to follow their fathers into the pit. In the second half they did a great rendition of Johnny Handle’s “Farewell to the Monty”, where many miners were killed in a flooding disaster caused by cutting through into old mine workings which turned out to be full of water.

This varied array of songs of the North East working class was complemented by a few shanties and forebitters, beautifully and lustily sung.

All three have great on-stage presence, with many amusing anecdotes and stories, together with a depth of knowledge of folk song and custom. Their lifetimes on the folk scene promoting traditional music, song and stories informs their stunning performance. It was a great night and Folk at the Barlow is privileged to have hosted them.